Castroneves keeps it clean at Mid-Ohio

Helio Castroneves kept his hands – and his car for the most part

– to himself on Sunday at Mid-Ohio.

Two weeks after the IndyCar star erupted when officials

penalized him for blocking late in the race at Edmonton, throwing a

tantrum that ended with the Brazilian being placed on probation and

fined $60,000, Castroneves put together a quiet third-place

finish.

”Obviously, I’m on probation so I have to behave myself,”

Castroneves said with a laugh.

The race, however, wasn’t totally incident free. Castroneves and

Team Penske teammate Ryan Briscoe ended up sandwiching Ryan

Hunter-Reay while exiting the pits early in the race.

Castroneves felt the two cars collide and thought his race was

over. Hardly. Instead it appeared to make his No. 3 Honda

better.

”From there on, it was great,” he said.

Castroneves spent the last half of the race following winner

Dario Franchitti and teammate Will Power, the same driver he tried

to cut off in Edmonton two weeks ago. Could Castroneves have made a

run for the lead? Maybe, but he wasn’t going to push it.

”I was just being sensible, just trying to make sure that I

didn’t make anything bad, especially when (Power) has so much lead

on the championship,” Castroneves said. ”I could push, but I have

to be a little more cautious.”

MILKA MISCUES: IndyCar officials put Milka Duno on probation two

weeks ago, telling her she needs to get up to speed if she wants to

be allowed to compete in the series.

If the officials thought the message would keep Duno out of

trouble, they were wrong.

Duno started from the back of the 27-car field after being held

out of qualifying on Saturday but still found a way to mix it up.

She was nearing the final turn on the 2.258-mile circuit midway

through the race when Power and Castroneves came up behind her.

Both struggled to slip past, with Castroneves making a late turn

into the pits to avoid a mishap.

”She was hard to predict what she’s going to do,” Power said.

”Luckily I got by her.”

Yet the bobble also allowed Franchitti to slightly extend his

lead on his way to victory.

”That sort of ruined any chance I had of passing him in the

pits during the pit stop,” Power said. ”Don’t know what else to

say.”

RAHAL vs. BRISCOE: Ryan Briscoe’s budding rivalry with Graham

Rahal is on hold.

For now anyway.

The two IndyCar drivers managed to avoid each other during

Sunday’s race, their first time being on the track together since a

dustup in Toronto last month. Briscoe and Rahal were battling for

seventh midway through the race when Rahal ran into the back of

Briscoe, sending Briscoe’s No. 6 car into the wall.

It sparked a war of words, with Briscoe taking to his twitter

account to criticize Rahal. Rahal responded a few days later on a

blog. They haven’t exactly patched things up.

”I wasn’t really expecting him to apologize and he didn’t, so I

don’t care, whatever,” Briscoe said.

Rahal maintains he didn’t do anything wrong, but didn’t take it

personally when Briscoe called him a ”part-time driver.” The

21-year-old son of Indy 500 champion Bobby Rahal signed a deal to

return to Newman/Haas racing last month. He doesn’t see the little

mini-squabble with Briscoe as bad for business.

”I think it’s been good recently for the IndyCar Series,”

Rahal said. ”People say the opposite but you know there’s been a

lot of attention that’s paid to the battles that we’re having with

each other. I think that’s good to see.”

Maybe, but there was no drama on Sunday, mostly because the two

drivers spent most of the race so far away from each other. Briscoe

ended up sixth while Rahal was 20th.

SARAH SPEAKS: Sarah Fisher’s to-do list is shorter than it used

to be. Her wish list, however, just keeps getting longer.

The IndyCar driver/owner spent the last six weeks trying to get

her small racing program ready to complete the season after taking

a break during a stretch of road races. Her list included a lot of

meetings, a lot of time in the garage and a lot of hoping things

will get better soon.

Fisher hired rookie Jay Howard to drive the No. 66 car for her

in Mid-Ohio. Howard finished 24th after spinning out 38 laps into

the race.

Undaunted, Fisher hopes to have both of her cars on the track

when the series visits Chicago at the end of the month.

Running two cars part-time isn’t exactly part of the plan –

she’d rather have a full-season commitment for one car – but for

now she doesn’t have much of a choice. The economy is still tight

and full-season sponsorships are hard to come by.

When one of Fisher’s cars has made it to the track, things

haven’t exactly gone as planned. Graham Rahal finished ninth in the

No. 67 in St. Petersburg, but the team hasn’t been in the Top 10

since no matter who is behind the wheel.

”It’s been tough,” she said.

Making matters worse is a problem Sarah Fisher Racing

encountered with the chassis Rahal used earlier in the season.

Dallara sent the team a new one, but there isn’t enough money to

put it together, leaving her with just three cars to finish the

year.

”There’s a brand new car sitting in our shop that just has to

sit there right now until we can figure out the budget,” she

said.

That’s life on the fringe. Fisher is encouraged by the ideas

Indycar is working on to make racing more affordable going forward,

including a less expensive, more durable car that will debut in

2012. On Saturday, Honda announced it will unveil a new engine the

same year that could cost up to 40 percent less for teams to

lease.